Tag Archives: identity

Quick Review: The Five Temptations of a CEO

Thanks to Audible, Patrick Lencioni’s book The FIVE Temptations of a CEO was on sale last week for 50% so I think I got it for around $4 or so. It’s one of his shortest books and also the first of his well-known leadership fable books to my knowledge. The audio version was about an hour and a half. I listened to just about the whole thing while supervising my kids in the swimming pool on vacation one afternoon. Water was WAAAY too cold for me so I opted for some Lencioni instead.

This was maybe the most simple of all the books I’ve read from Lencioni. Simple story and five simple principles that have a significant and disproportionate impact on leadership and team success. It was a brief book, but it came at a good time for me as I’ve been stretched lately through having to lead at a higher level. It’s not just for CEO’s, but for anyone really leading a team and who is in a position to steward organizational mission, vision, and values.

The five temptations are essentially these:

  1. Status (protecting self over focusing on results)
  2. Popularity (wanting people to like you instead of holding them accountable and making the needed decisions)
  3. Certainty (wanting to avoid risk and failure)
  4. Harmony (wanting to avoid tension and uncomfortability in the team)
  5. Invulnerability  (Maintaining distance and avoiding authenticity)

Here’s his model in simple form as it’s covered on his website. You can download the model here in pdf form.

Much of these principles are unpacked in more detail in later books, especially The Five Dysfunctions and Getting Naked. So I don’t know if paying full price for this book is what you need to do. I would think a lot of it can be gleaned from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. But for the price, it was a great and simple overview of some key things. Of all the ones here, the temptation of certainty was the one that was most helpful for me right now. It’s the one least covered in other books I’ve read so maybe that’s where I found a lot of value here. But overall – it provided a great opportunity for self-assessment and to explore possible development and change moving forward.

It was a great hour and fifteen minutes – I listened at 1.25x speed 🙂

The website for the book is here.




Quick Review: DRiVE

Last week I finished reading Daniel Pink’s DRiVE:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. 

Understanding motivation seems to be an under explored aspect of leadership studies and action.  Given how much discussion there is in leadership and ministry ventures about empowerment, it surprises me there is not more intentionality to ground more leadership development and empowerment of workers and new leaders with healthy awareness as to what will lead to long term change and impact.

Pink provides a brief survey or overview of the history of how people have understand motivation – from survival, to external reward motivations, and finally to intrinsic motivation.   I disagree with the evolutionary assumptions behind how Pink frames this – as if the journey towards intrinsic motivation is part of humanity’s destiny in evolving towards self-actualization.  I happen to think a lot of the research actually instead supports a holistic theology of creation.

That’s one of the things I enjoyed thinking about when reading this book – how the research tends to affirm that men and women were created for intrinsic motivation when there is enough stability and freedom that allows for it.  Intrinsic motivation is an expression of identity and I believe it is meant to be an expression of worship to our Creator.  So a theology of creation makes the research in DRiVE even more interesting and exciting to me, not less.

What’s fascinating about DRiVE is that there are some jobs where external rewards are helpful – what Pink describes as algorithmic work.  But if external rewards are linked to generating motivation in heuristic work – work that requires creativity among other things, external rewards end up generating a host of negative results and implications.

The core areas Pink explores as key to fostering intrinsic motivation are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  Essentially he argues that people need freedom over their work and schedule and methods to some degree in order to truly be passion driven in what they do.  Mastery is a product of struggle and sacrifice.  Purpose is a deep connection to a greater cause, something greater than us.  In short, these three areas must be fostered and developed if we are to empower others through intrinsic motivation.

A helpful section in this book relates to parenting – how we often try to generate intrinsic motivations in our kids through methods that actually work against that.  That section might alone be worth reading for those in the parenting stage.  I have been thinking a lot about how to be intentional in targeting and developing intrinsic motivation in both my family and in teaching and organizationally.

Chances are there are at least one or two areas in your life and leadership that a closer look at human behavior and motivation would help in.  It definitely has been helpful for me in my own self-leadership and my leadership of others.

Quick Review: Mud and The Masterpiece

Not too long ago I was researching books to use for the Interpersonal Relationships class I teach and I picked up John Burke’s Mud and the Masterpiece.  I picked it up primarily because I remembered the author from his CCC/Cru staff days in Southern California.

There’s been a resurgence of books on identity and the image of God as it relates to ministry and discipleship to Christ in the last decade which I’ve appreciated.  There was a great need to restore integrating thinking and reflection about how a biblical theology of creation is crucial to healthy and fruitful ministry and community life.  This book addresses that general area for the Church, but explores in good measure the difference between grace and performance oriented systems of growth and discipleship.  This book reinforces the significance and power and even the necessity of the grace of God for life change and Christian discipleship.

Maybe a simple synopsis of what Burke is getting at is captured below as a summary of what he argues is truly needed for people to genuinely come to faith. It somewhat represents a post-modern ministry philosophy of sorts for evangelism and discipleship that I think is worth paying attention to.

In today’s post-Christian context, people often need the intersection of three elements in order to find faith and become the church:

  1. A friendship with someone who truly acts like Jesus—listening, caring, serving, and talking openly about faith in a non-pressuring way….
  2. Relationship with a “tribe” of four to five other Christians whom they enjoy hanging out with and who make them feel like they truly belong….
  3. A “come as you are” learning environment where they can learn, usually for six to eighteen months, about the Way of Jesus….

When all three of these elements intersect the lives of those far from God, it’s amazing how many people find the love and grace of God and bring their network of friends and family along with them.

John Burke, Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others through the Eyes of Jesus, loc. 2805. Kindle Edition

There’s some helpful insights, illustrations, and teaching related to being made in the image of God, the power of grace, the transformational potential of the body of Christ, and the dangers of legalism for spiritual formation and Christian ministry.  What’s also helpful is that he provides a model for what he and his church does in trying to live out a grace and community based environment for spiritual journeying towards Christ.


Quick Review: It’s Not About The Coffee

I’m catching up this week on many a book review that I haven’t been able to get to in recent months, but here is a leadership book I enjoyed recently from one of the key Starbucks execs.  Behar was the key guy in getting Starbucks established internationally and Asia specifically I believe, which I enjoyed as I read a lot of this book from a Starbucks in Manila!

This a helpful and practical book of leadership principles that aren’t overly conceptual or abstract, but that are directly related to culture shaping, meaning making, and ethical workplaces that honor people and are successful.  That’s what I loved most about the book – it repeatedly drives home different ways in which leadership must put others first in shaping an organizational culture that puts others first.

I’ve emphasized in my own leadership trainings over the past decade the significance of identity and purpose in being able to live and lead in ways that are making meaning in addition to simply getting the job done and accomplishing “the mission.”  Behar does much the same starting off with his first principle on identity.  I won’t outline the book, but this is an excellent leadership resource that isn’t too dense or heavy and that can really trigger your thought and reflection about your own leadership as well as the environments you serve in – no matter whether they are organizational or religious in nature.

I personally don’t like reading leadership books where someone or some group has had success so they write a book to tell the world how awesome they are as experts on “leadership.”  This book wasn’t like that at all and you really experience Behar’s passion for people and wisdom related to how to keep that perspective fresh in an organization through leadership and culture shaping.  He hits areas that many other leadership writers miss and writes in a very accessible way that would help leaders at all different levels.

So maybe you should do what I did – read this book mostly from a Starbucks!  Reading it in that context actually helped me visualize much more of what Behar was communicating and sharing and I’ve come back a few times already to refresh myself on his top 10 principles.


Identity & Holistic Coaching

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Multi Ethnic Learnings

As I continue to share some of the things I learned through my experience serving cross-culturally and in multi-ethnic contexts, many of the posts I share will directly or indirectly point to a theme that really is central to effective ministry and leadership development – identity.

Similar to what I shared in my previous post on the problem of paternalism, prior to my experiences doing leadership development in an ethnic minority ministry context I didn’t think much about identity.  Prior to that I had only really thought about identity through the lens of what some call “positional truths.”  These are those truths in the Bible about a believer’s identity in Christ.  My experience cross-culturally took me deeper into those positional truths and their significance for cross-cultural peace and reconciliation and unity.  However, my experience also took me to a broader and more holistic understanding of identity and its significance in discipleship, leadership development, and culture shaping.

My previously narrow understanding of identity I believe stems in part from the dynamics of being part of the majority culture. As I mostly have fit in culturally and have not often been in environments that raised the question for me about whether I belong culturally or not, this arena  existed for quite a while outside of my consciousness.  But some of that also stems from being exposed to perhaps overly propositional approaches to meaning making by my faith tradition.  But through my multi-ethnic and cross-cultural journey, identity has grown to become a central component of my leadership development philosophy and theology. Identity is always being lived out and formed. It’s dynamic. Some things are fixed, some things are dynamically changing.

Several years ago this espn cover really powerfully communicated the complex nature of identity – both in terms of how we see ourselves and how others may perceive us.


Leadership and community ethics really get to the heart of identity – it’s how we express and treat the image of God in ourselves and one another. It includes how we shape others and how others have shaped us. It’s how we understand what distinguishes us from others as well as what binds us together.

But while many like me minimize or are ignorant to the importance of identity in life, leadership, and ministry – identity is a larger or more central journey for people who have straddled multiple cultures or worlds. A word for living in this type of cultural reality is liminality – living in between when you don’t fully belong to one side or another but much of your identity and meaning lies in the tension and the in between.  We have raised our family the last couple of years in the Philippines and have watched first hand the identity journey our kids are on. They are already asking more questions related to identity than I ever did at their ages.

Beyond liminality – any oppressed people group will be aware of and wrestle more with identity because that’s part of the journey we must take to make sense of our experience.  The question of who we are for some is a more complicated one because their identity in the context of their ethnicity and uniqueness has not always been celebrated or affirmed. Most conscientious people today  will ask the questions at some point – why is this happening and what does it say about who I am? Some are forced to grow up asking these questions very early on while some, as a result of their circumstances, may not ask those questions until later in life, if ever.

It’s also important to highlight here that identity is important because ethnic minority stories are very different and people are on different journeys at different paces in different contexts. There has to be a commitment to learning who individuals are within their communities to free us up from unhelpful assumptions and stereotyping. When I paint groups of people with a broad brush I tend to get myself into trouble. Generalizations aren’t always bad, but when they become labels and things that we are projecting onto people, when they might not be true or representative of them then we have crossed a line.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned in this season of ministry was about the importance of listening to and paying attention to how people see and express themselves as a window into their identity journey.  Only through learning and listening can one truly come alongside in an affirming and empowering way – and when we see and affirm people’s identity, who God has made them, I’ve seen how incredibly empowering that can be.

As a practical note – this is why ministry efforts anchored in transferability of methodology has limits to its effectiveness.  What can be effective in one context can be ineffective somewhere else and furthermore it could even be unethical!  The degree to which we can see the difference is a reflection of our capacity to see and understand the power of identity in an individual and culture.

A few years ago I co-wrote this brief post on identity with my friend Adrian as a cornerstone of our philosophy of leadership development for Epic Movement.  As an additional resource, here is a team building exercise designed by friends of mine to surface themes of identity and stimulate conversation.

Family Hug!


Had a fun moment last week.  As our family was leaving my parent’s place and our kids were saying good-bye to their cousins (close in age to our youngest – in the 2 year old range), they were starting to give each other hugs.  That is cute in and of itself – watching 2 year olds hug each other.  But then my little one (2 yrs 3 months) was clearly feeling the moment and yelled “Family Hug!” and initiated a big family hug with all family members who were in sight.

It was amazing to me that at her age, our little one already has a paradigm, a construct of what “Family” is.  It’s been nurtured for sure by her context – the environment she has lived in and who her world consists of.  Even though recently turning two, she associates family with closeness, togetherness, hugs, and touch.  It’s part of how she understands the world, it’s even part of how she sees herself. She sees herself as part of something – even at a young two.

We’re thankful that she has had such an experience where she has such a view of what Family is.  But it’s sobering too that as Kaelyn is internalizing certain truths about what Family is or should be, many her age are forming very different constructs about family that do not include closeness, connection, or healthy loving touch – like hugs.

Family is part of our identity. It informs so much about how we see the world and ourselves.  We are forever marked by our origins. Yet if those origins are painful or dark, we need not be enslaved by them.  I’m thankful that in God’s grace he aims to provide children tangible expressions of his love and grace through the family.  I’m also thankful that through his Spirit and through His people, His body that our incomplete or broken constructs of love and family can be redeemed and built up.

As I watch my little girl, one thing is crystal clear – she was created for family, just as we all are.  God wants all His human creations to know and experience family. It’s the language of the New Testament. He’s constantly inviting people to a promise of family where all of our limited and earthly notions of what family is or is not can be transformed and re-ordered so that holy love is the foundation of how we come to see and relate to one another.

Gatherings of the body ought to be in many ways, “Family Hugs.” That’s very touchy feely language I’m not typically associated with, but gatherings of the body ought to be expressions and celebrations of our common identity as the family of God as well as our uniquenesses as individuals within that family.

So maybe “Family Hugs” need to become part of your tradition!







Carvers Do Not Faces Make

When reading the poem “The Cross” by 17th century British poet John Donne, I was struck especially by the following lines….

“As perchance, carvers do not faces make,
But that away, which hid them there, do take”   (lines 33-34)

As I think about leadership development (and discipleship if you will) this reflects vital truths about the spirituality of leadership and developing other leaders.

As leaders, we can often think ourselves as “carvers” or sculptors. And as such, we can think we are the ones who are shaping “faces.”  This is a presumptuous assumption indeed!

Any theology of leadership must include a theology of personhood.  Donne highlights the truth that God has made the “face” of each person.  We are each “fearfully and wonderfully made” in His image and as a reflection of His creative love.  True faces are not created by external artists.  They are discovered.

As I think about our true faces though, it’s quite an appropriate metaphor to liken ourselves to blocks of rock from which a masterpiece is uncovered.  For though our face is waiting to be discovered, we sure have a lot of stuff in the way from expressing that beauty to the world.  Pain, cultural baggage, theological baggage, family baggage and societal issues all start building up pretty dense obstacles to the unveiling of the masterpiece.

As I think of servant leadership and developing leaders, we must start our thinking first and foremost with this conviction that “carvers do not faces make.”  Today a more industrial approach to leadership development has been widely adopted – the perspective that you can mass produce leaders to execute your objectives on a larger scale through getting alignment to different programs or philosophies or strategies of leading or task management.

We often “train” with the result being that our trainees take on the face of our organization or our own face (sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not!).

There are always the basic skills or critical capacities people need to steward their responsibilities and place in a community.  There are things that need to be learned, skills that need to be added.  But in your context, are people’s faces —their true faces emerging and becoming more evident through the built up rock and debris that threaten to shield them off from becoming known?

I think this is an essential part of what it means to be a servant leader in the role of trainer or developer or team leader or culture shaper.  We are indeed carvers. We are sculptors with various degrees of skill.  But we are not creating or shaping faces.   We are exercising our influence, power, and skill in consistently removing those barriers that keep those faces hidden.

While we also seek to pass on skills, if we confuse what is our greatest impact upon those we develop then we will have to live with the sad reality that we are leaving masterpieces embedded in rock…or worse – we are adding to the debris.

A key part of ethical and empowering leadership is taking away “that which hid them there.”  To do that, we must be able to have eyes to look beyond just what people can do for us to see the greater story.

The hammer and chisel of a sculptor are akin to the power and influence of a leader.  We can allow beauty to emerge or we can do damage to that beauty. And maybe worse, as beauty emerges we can take credit for it.  But the carver remembers in his or her humility that while there is a part to play in removing debris, the face they did not make.

How are you working to create the space for true faces to emerge with greater clarity around you?

Elements of a Leadership Reproduction Culture

Over the last few weeks I’ve either authored or co-authored a few posts in a series my ministry is releasing.  We’re rolling out a series of Nine Vital Elements of a Leadership Reproduction Culture.  Basically – these are things that are part of how we work, how we lead, and how we relate to others in the course of the mission.

I won’t be involved in most of the remaining posts, but here are the first three that I contributed to after many collaborative discussions.

Epic Is….Story

Epic is…..Identity

Epic is…..Servant Leadership

Follow any of these links to the Epic Resource site to track these discussions and the series.

What elements do you see as being vital to reproducing empowered leaders?

Ministry Has A Mordor

It’s been a while since the Lord of the Rings craze a few years back, but we soon we’ll be revisiting Middle Earth again through the release of The Hobbit.

I loved the books and loved the movies for a lot of reasons, but there’s a theme I want to highlight that always stood out to me and that still influences my thinking today.  There’s a strong contrast in these books between Mordor and the rest of Middle Earth.

Mordor, the land of the enemy and of most things evil, is driven by power, by the dark side of industrialization, and a general disregard of anything sacred.  Sacred resources were squandered and cast aside for the sake of production and control.

The rest of the surrounding lands are often shown to be showing value to their peoples and to creation.  The Hobbits and Elves especially are shown operating their lives and worlds around that which is sacred. 

So what’s the point of all this?

Ministry has a Mordor.

Now I’m not talking about going green. Ministry, like other contexts, have the same tensions and conflicts related to power, dehumanizing mechanization, and control.  And as I continue to reflect on the nature of spiritual warfare, I think these enemies of the sacred, these enemies of souls, are at the heart of much spiritual warfare.

But while the film captures this in black and white terms of what is evil and what is good, there is a sobering reality that there’s a little Mordor in and around all of us.  Not all of us see what is sacred or we have far too narrow of a view of what truly is sacred.  Others of us see what is sacred, but fail to understand how to order our lives and our work in ways which affirms that which is sacred versus that which is not.

But sense there could be plenty of discussion as to what is sacred, let’s just focus on one thing that most of us would agree is sacred – people.

Here is where Mordor shows up in ministry and in plenty of other places.

1.  Mordor leaders only respect power, title or position, or those with talents that easily assist their own increased status and power.  These leaders can love God and read the Bible and be respected in a lot of ways because they get things done.  The problem is that they often get things done in ways that erode or ignore the sacred.

If you as a leader only listen to or respect those with a title, power, or position – it’s a sign of arrogance, pride, and a power orientation in leadership.  Period.  You may get things done.  But you are leaving a wake of Mordor in your path.  Leaders connected to what is sacred to God, treat the things He thinks are sacred as sacred.  This means listening, trusting, and respecting people even if the organizational hierarchy doesn’t necessitate it. Not much makes me more sad when I saw people getting dismissed with a “who are you to open your mouth” type of attitude.

Good luck empowering others that way. God sees.

2. Mordor leaders use people to accomplish goals and their ends without awareness of all the rest of the reality which they don’t find useful to their agenda.  Again – these people could be great people, spiritually strong, and in general be well respected.  The problem is they often only see things through the lens of their own agenda.  Therefore, resources (human) are seen only in light of the agenda and much of what is central to what is sacred in humanity goes unseen or unacknowledged.

What is sacred in human resources?  Here’s a couple things – identity (including gender & cultural), story, and voice.  Yet people are squeezed to fit agendas often with little regard for who these people really are and why THEY AS INDIVIDUALS MATTER.

3. Mordor leaders preserve the hierarchy and their own status within it.  The other side of this is that they keep others down.  Call it the Mordor ceiling if you will – where control is of such great importance (acknowledged or not) that real change that upsets the hierarchy is unlikely. Ministry will take place and great things may happen, meanwhile everyone must stay in their place.  Mordor leaders have a sense of entitled authority that leads to narcissistic environments that often maintain the status quo through fear.

There’s much that has been covered about spiritual warfare, but I’ve grown convinced that an undervalued dimension to spiritual warfare are those systemic patterns like the above that can demean, silence, dis-empower, control, and even intimidate sacred souls. Furthermore, the above types of things often are condoned, approved, and even rewarded. How does this happen?  Simply because the values of Mordor show up in a lot of places (power, control, efficiency, productivity) and they blind people to seeing the sacred.  The “mission” somehow seems to undermine the sacred because the mission is seen as more sacred than individuals.

The battle is being waged every day between that which is sacred and those enemies which seek to squeeze human beings into the productivity/efficiency machine.

Our leadership can be sacred – in that we organize our values and practices around that which is sacred, much like the Elves and Hobbits in Middle Earth had cultures in which what they viewed as sacred was preserved.

Mordor leadership isn’t always lived out by evil people.  Good, well-meaning people can stomp on the sacred without even being conscious of it. But if we never change, we are perpetuating dark patterns that wound that which is sacred.

How do you stay connected to that which is sacred about people?

What are the challenges you face in organizing your practices and values around that which is sacred in people?